All visitors to hospitals in the Highlands will have to wear special surgical masks as part of new efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
NHS Highland has revised its guidance on face coverings in response to the more transmissible variant of Covid-19.
All staff, patients and visitors attending Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, and other NHS Highland facilities, will now be required to wear fluid resistant surgical masks (FRSM) instead of regular face coverings as they are thought to offer more protection from coronavirus.
The appropriate masks will be provided by the health board on entry to its sites.
The change has been imposed following a surge in case numbers across the far north.
A spokesman for NHS Highland said: “With immediate effect all visitors, patients and staff should put on an FRSM rather than a face covering when coming into the care facility.
“This guidance also applies to all non-clinical or patient-facing staff when it is not possible for them to physically distance from colleagues within offices or moving between departments.”
He added: “Staff who work in non-clinical shared office spaces should also ensure they are using an FRSM.
“We would also continue to encourage hand hygiene, this is particularly important when handling face coverings and masks.”
The fresh measure comes as NHS Highland officials confirmed 18,000 vaccines have been delivered across the north despite delays in rural areas.
One third of over-80s have been inoculated as well as most care home staff and residents.